The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has made Aadhaar card mandatory for students of government and government-aided schools in Uttar Pradesh for availing mid-day meal from 1 July 2017. The government provides free lunch to students from class one to eight on working days under the mid-day meal scheme.
All district authorities in Uttar Pradesh have been directed to implement the decision. Director of Basic Education, Sarvendra Vikarn Singh, has already sent an official letter to all the primary education officers stating, “The government has directed the basic education officers in all districts to ensure that every beneficiary of midday meals gets an Aadhaar card so that the scheme is not affected. If Aadhaar cards for all beneficiaries are not made and their numbers are not submitted, then students without such cards will not be able to benefit from the government schemes.”
The Aadhaar enrolment of students in primary schools in Uttar Pradesh is extremely low, and the school authorities are making efforts to get all students enrolled for Aadhaar Card. According to a rough estimate, only 15-20% students in government and government-aided schools have Aadhaar cards. However, despite efforts by the state government, no camps for Aadhaar Cards have been set up yet, and with just more than a fortnight left for the implementation of the rule, there is fear that there may be a surge in school dropouts as a result.
This rule follows close at the heels of the decision of the Union Human Resource Development Ministry making Aadhaar cards mandatory for midday meals in schools in April this year. While the decision by the Union Government to make the 12-digit Aadhaar card mandatory to avail mid-day meal scheme received a lot of flak from activists claiming that many beneficiaries would be excluded from the child nutrition scheme, the rule has helped states strike off 4.4 lakh “ghost students” from schools in many states including Jharkhand, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh, for whom the government had been earmarking funds under the mid-day meal scheme. According to a data for 2015-16 and 2016-17, these schools have been showing non-existent students on their rolls to claim additional funds from the mid-day meal scheme allocation. Because of the presence of ghost students, a pilot study by Kerala’s department of general education in 2014 also found that the schools in the state had an excess of 3,892 teachers.
There are 13.16 crore children enrolled in 11.5 lakh schools across India, with 10.03 crore students availing mid-day meals in 2015-16. The financial burden for the midday meal is shared by the state and central governments in the ratio of 40:60. The ratio for north-eastern states is 90:10, with the Centre paying the bulk of the funds. Implementation of the rule of making Aadhaar card mandatory to avail of midday meal scheme will help in the following ways:
- Ensure that benefits meant for a particular student do not fail to reach him/her.
- Money that was earlier siphoned away through the submission of false enrolment figures will be checked.
- The state will have more resources at its disposal to improve school facilities.